Moscow Coercive Diplomacy, RFERLRadio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) “made this brilliant interactive map of Moscow’s coercive diplomacy using the open source tool:  story map, author of A Field Guide for Mobile Journalism,
Robb Montgomery, reported on his website.

StoryMap is a free and easy-to-use tool that journalists can use now to create exclusive, Web-native multimedia story experiences.

READ MORE:Storymap is an awesome and easy tool to make multimedia packages, Robb Montgomery.

BBG Watch Commentary

BBG Watch has asked one of our new media experts who is also an experienced multimedia international journalist for a comment. This is what our expert said in a simple multimedia commentary:

Voice of America map shows Crimea as no longer part of Ukraine, even though the U.S. Government, which funds VOA, does not recognize Crimea as being part of Russia or as a separate territory.
Voice of America map shows Crimea as no longer part of Ukraine, even though the U.S. Government, which funds VOA, does not recognize Crimea as being part of Russia or as a separate territory.

“StoryMap is an interesting and useful tool, but it cannot replace general knowledge and journalistic expertise of those who use it. Fortunately, RFE/RL reporters are highly experienced and knowledgeable, but this tool is not going to help web editors, such as those at the Voice of America (VOA), who had posted a map showing Crimea to be part of Russia. Technology can assist but not replace outstanding reporters and editors.

As exciting as it looks, StoryMap may also be too complex for most web users who have too little time to explore it or may be overwhelmed by too many not well defined and described choices.

Most web users like multimedia content, but they can usually handle two, or at most three media at a time, such as image/text, video/image/text or audio/image/text. Keep it simple and easy to use. If you have a great audio interview, present it with an attractive image or a changing image gallery with a large play bottom, but do not omit also providing a short summary and a full transcript for those who do not have time to listen to full audio. The same advice is true for presenting video.

RFE/RL, of course, also presents single videos in visually attractive packages, but like most international broadcasters it does not always provide a longer summary and a full transcript. It may be an issue of organization and resources for RFE/RL.

RFE/RL reports are almost always highly informative and journalistically sophisticated. For example, RFE/RL posted a number of reports and videos on the 70th anniversary of Crimean Tatars deportation by Joseph Stalin, while the Voice of America English news website failed to even mention Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement on the Tatar genocide anniversary.

DW Video Presentation
DW Video Presentation
DW Audio Presentation
DW Audio Presentation

Among major international broadcasters, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) has developed a visually attractive and easy way to present video and audio to web users, but even DW seems to lack resources to do more than just a short text summary of their video and audio content. It helps that DW also has excellent reporters and editors who offer interesting and sophisticated news analysis.

DW website can be compared to a German-engineered automobile. It has some quirks but overall it is excellent as is DW content. RFE/RL website is a little too busy and could use some improvements, but its content is superb. VOA website could not even be compared in terms of content, organization, and look to today’s American cars. It’s more like a Yugo or an old Lada.

The key to online success is to have video/audio/image/text presented in a simple to use one package. Putting many different media in one place — too many tweets, too many images, too many videos — will actually discourage users from exploring unless they have a lot of free time and are dedicated enough to explore a given topic in this manner.

One or two tweets to illustrate a news report are fine, but a dozen or more tweets, often seen on the VOA website, show that editors are not sure about their own material and what the point of their reporting may be. To avoid confusion and any accusations of bias, all third-party multimedia material must be described in text form with proper sourcing and any necessary disclaimers.

Text summaries of audio and video interviews, if not full transcripts, as well as short bios of interviewees, are critical, but posting too much multimedia content in one package may not be always a good idea. If you have a lot of good multimedia content, break it up into separate reports with links to maximize traffic to your website and social media generated interest in your news content.

DW Hunter Biden Report
DW Hunter Biden Report

But the priority is always the news story. You have to have it to begin with and it has to be good.

I went to the Voice of America English website to look for a report on Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, joining the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas company. Despite wide international interest and reporting on this controversial news story, including one-sided reports by RT and Voice of Russia, I did not find any reports on this topic on the VOA English news website.

Deutsche Welle, on the other hand, did have not one, but two news reports on Hunter Biden that were accurate, balanced and comprehensive. DW reported that the White House said it can’t see any problem in Biden’s recent appointment. DW also reported that Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to comment further, stating only that ‘Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president.’ DW even quoted Michael Sawkiw, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, backing the president’s spokesman. VOA English News did not have any of this reporting, although one would logically expect that VOA would be covering this U.S. news story and controversy it generated, as required by the VOA Charter.

DW news reports on Hunter Biden were not multimedia presentations, but they were both sophisticated and sufficient for the subject matter. I was later told that VOA services to Russia and Ukraine did have reports on the Hunter Biden controversy, but VOA English News and most other VOA language services did not.

Ultimately, news reporting silence is far more damaging to the reputation of a news organization than the occasional lack of multimedia content to illustrate or enhance a news story.

But in the competitive international media environment, news organizations must also give their news stories the right mix of multimedia enhancements or they will be forgotten by web users. At the same time, too much disorganized and not easy to access multimedia content, especially in the absence of a solid news report, can be just as bad as too little.”